By Robin Gomes
According to Pope Francis, a good bishop is one who is close to his flock, awake and watching, defending and confirming them in the faith. This was the heart of the homily of the Pope at his Friday Morning Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta residence in the Vatican.
The disorientation of God's people
Pope Francis was commenting on the day’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, where Peter and the apostles, keen to put the Christians of Antioch at peace, send them Paul and Barnabas along with two others. Those in charge of the Church in Antioch, believing themselves to be true orthodox theologians of the faith, were in fact disorientating the faithful, the Pope said. On the other hand, the apostles, i.e. today’s bishops, confirm them in the faith.
Bishop – awake, watchful and involved
The Pope described the bishop as “one who monitors, who guards - a sentinel who knowns how to watch out in order to defend the flock from the wolves that come".
Jesus, the Holy Father explained, distinguishes between the true shepherd from the employee, from the one who goes for his payment and does not care if the wolf comes and eats one of the sheep.
The Pope said the true shepherd is awake, who is involved in the life of the flock, defends not only each and every sheep, but also confirms them. And if one goes away or is lost, he goes looking for it to bring it back. He is so involved that he does not let one be lost.
Bishop - close to his people
The Pope evoked the image of a bishop after the heart of Christ. A bishop is a shepherd who knows the name of each sheep, i.e. he is close to his sheep.
He said the faithful can make out a bishop who doesn’t care much about them: a bishop who is always busy, who meddles in business, a businessman, one who is busy with things incompatible with his mission, one who is always going about everywhere suitcase-in-hand, or one with "guitar-in-hand", and so on.
The people of God really know that a shepherd is a shepherd, when he is close to them, when he is able to keep watch and give his life for them, the Holy Father said stressing on the word, “closeness”.
The Pope held out the example of St. Turibius of Mogrovejo of what a true bishop is like. The Spanish saint died in a small indigenous village, surrounded by his Christians who played the “chirimía”, a wind instrument, so that he could die in peace.
In conclusion, Pope Francis urged prayers so that the Church may not lack good pastors, who work, pray, are close to God's people and who know how to keep watch.